By the time Clapton had tired of the musical excesses of Cream, and heavy, psychedelic jam-prone rock in favor of the simple and more straightforward playing of the Dominos, his personal life was unraveling.
In love with his best friend George Harrison's wife Pattie, his desperate entreaties to her and even the admission of his feelings to both of them brought no relief. To further complicate matters, Pattie was the older sister of Clapton's girlfriend Paula Boyd.
Clapton described being "tormented" by his feelings for Pattie and immersing himself as completely as possible in music and the rootsy playing of his new band. They would tour England as unknowns, a rare pleasure for arguably the most famed of all the English guitarists, in small clubs to small crowds. It was so potentially redemptive for Clapton, he felt an album was in order.
"This was an incredibly creative time for me. Driven by my obsession with Pattie, I was writing a lot, and all the songs I wrote for the Dominos’ first album are really about her and our relationship. “Layla” was the key song, a conscious attempt to speak to Pattie about the fact that she was holding off and wouldn’t come and move in with me. “What’ll you do when you get lonely?” The Layla album was recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami, where we headed in late August." (Clapton)
By all accounts the sessions were raucous, but little was being produced of merit, until producer Tom Dowd introduced Clapton to Duane Allman, and the second soon to be legendary guitarist joined the sessions.
"What we were doing was having a lot of fun. During the day we would go swimming and have saunas, and then it was off to the studio to jam, sometimes with chemical assistance. We were staying in a funky little hotel on Miami Beach." (Clapton)
That funky little hotel was the Thunderbird, where the needed chemical assistance could be acquired from the accommodating staff at the front counter if necessary. Clapton penned the famous opening lines on the hotel stationery, likely as a working draft. He gifted them to Bonnie Diamond, close friends with Dominos bassist Carl Radle as a thanks for driving him to the airport for the return to London, adding the address and phone number of his childhood home as well if she wanted to be in touch.
Given the rather loose atmosphere in the studio and Clapton's generally instability from medicating his romantic agony, it is unsurprising that little if any manuscript material from the legendary sessions survives and we believe this to be the only contemporary manuscript from Eric Clapton's acclaimed work to ever be offered for sale.
"Layla" was released in December, 1970, but it would be another two years before it would become a hit and the rock anthem as it is known today.
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